MaggieFergusonTango & Friends - In-depth Interview for SydneyTango Autumn Milonga Saturday 29 April Club Bexley
MaggieFergusonTango & Friends
SydneyTango Autumn Milonga - Saturday 29 April – Club Bexley – 8pm to Midnight
Maggie Ferguson interviewed by Sima
SydneyTango’s first Saturday milonga for 2017 will introduce a new tango milonga quartet formed by Maggie Ferguson using a combination of TangoOz musicians and new classically trained musicians who have fallen in love with the music of Tango.
After their debut in October 2016 in concert, this will be their first appearance at a milonga playing music for dancers.
“. . the creativity of playing . . new musical language skills . .“
: As an already accomplished violinist, I understand you began playing bandoneon in 2007. Can you describe the journey of your first ten years as a bandoneonista.
: Ten years ago in April on a lengthy visit to Buenos Aires, I committed to studying bandoneon with the view that it would take ten years to reach the magic 10,000 hours. I still record the hours each day.
It was useful that I was already a musician given that bandoneon requires dexterity plus knowledge of harmony and a good memory for patterns. I learned with three different teachers, all marvellous players and have had great opportunities to work with them on both instruments over the years in Sydney and BA.
: Is your approach to playing Tango music the same with either instrument, or does each require a different set of sensibilities?
: I think of the violin and bandoneon as girl and boy. Violin is the principal melody instrument in tango and can have enormous freedom within the confines of the rhythmic beat, metered out by the bass, piano and bandoneon. Depending on the composer, the bandoneon also gets the melody and is just as expressive. While each requires very different skills, it is the marcato with arrastre on bandoneon which drives the tango forward simultaneously dragging the beat which creates 'swing'. The great tango musicians instinctively play like this and it's great to be in the orchestra with them.
: Throughout your 16 years teaching tango at the Conservatorium of Music and your 6 years working with TangoOz, do you have any special memories with your students or milestones reached in their musical education and development?
: Too many special memories to list. TangoOz had eight years with SYO and now is in its ninth year as a special access ensemble at Conservatorium High School. TangoOz remains the teaching orchestra associated with La Orquesta Escuela de Tango Emilio Balcarce in BA.
The girls of Fuego Blanco are among some of the outstanding students I've worked with. All have achieved music degrees. Currently Kate is in London completing a masters while Annie G is at Julliard in NYC, Annie Z teaches at CHS and Bella is doing post grad in Hobart.
: Do you continue to work with the Sydney Youth Orchestra (SYO) and are there any new projects for the future?
: I'm contracted to SYO to conduct the Australian tango academy (ATA) which is a gig orchestra formed this year. Recently we played two concerts on the Queen Elizabeth while she was in port. In August ATA will perform at the AGNSW as part of their 'Resonate' series and again in October in a lunchtime recital at City Recital Hall.
: Did your former work teaching tango in the Small Ensembles (formerly Chamber Music) program at the Conservatorium High School (CHS) since 2002, lead in any way to the formulation of your new quintet?
I formed the quintet to play tango with my peers and specifically to play Piazzolla's four seasons and other repertoire.
: Is the composition of particular instruments making up the quintet dictated by the original arrangements of the music you play, or your interpretation of how best to create the sound of the concept of the composer?
: The lineup of musicians is the same as Piazzolla's last ensemble in the 1980s, many say his greatest. Much of his music at this time is arranged for piano, bandoneon, violin, bass and electric guitar.
For a milonga, I substitute 2nd violin for guitar.
: What are the requisites to forming 5 individual musicians into a cohesive musical whole as a musical group?
: Following my answer to question 5, it is a matter of musical ability, compatible personalities and vision which makes an ensemble stand out. I select my ensemble friends for all these reasons and their extensive experience as chamber musicians. The only moulding I do is to shape the tango the way I hear it and occasionally suggest technical aspects.
: Do you have favourite tango songs you love playing for tango dancers and how has your perception of tango concert performance as against milonga performances developed?
: Dance tangos are a huge part of my music as I was trained in an Orquesta típica. Particularly I admire Di Sarli, Pugliese, Troilo, the De Caro brothers and many more. I plan concerts around a theme which tends to be chronological and incorporates listening tangos with dance music. Milonga programs are organised in tandas of a similar style with some surprises thrown in.
: Do you envisage MaggieFergusonTango & Friends maintaining a strong danceable tango component of their overall musical repertoire ?
: My band will always keep a strong dance component.
: When playing music for tango dancers, do you concentrate on a particular era of orquestas or can adapt music from composers up to today?
: I mostly use the great arrangements of the Golden Age however I'm a great fan of the evolutionary composers which followed like Balcarce, Plaza, Salgan, Federico, Marconi and Lavallen. Their tangos are strong, idiosyncratic and I think, very danceable.
: Are there any special future plans for MaggieFergusonTango & Friends on the drawboard? And do you plan to remain as a quintet?
: *MFT&Friends will be performing for SydneyTango Autumn Milonga on April 29th.
*On June 2nd we join Ensemble Concertante for a performance of 8 seasons (Vivaldi and Piazzolla)
*August 6th MFT&Friends at the Camelot Lounge for a program titled Invierno Tango in Winter
*November 11 Orange Community theatre MFT&Friends join Andrew Baker and the Colour City Chamber Orchestra for a performance of the 8 seasons
More dates are yet to be confirmed.
Maggie Ferguson on Bandoneon at the Sydney Opera House
Maggie Ferguson on Bandoneon – Bach at Bondi Beach
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